Learning a Different Kind of Self-Care

Looking for jobs is exhausting and hard on a person’s ego. Having been out of my desired career field for five years, in 2016, I jumped at the opportunity to get back into Higher Education. 

From 2011 to 2015, I had been stuck without a clear path out of my situation. I was working as a Teacher’s Assistant at a private elementary school, serving in a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade combined classroom. I was selling myself short, keeping myself back from being my best, telling myself that “this is not what I am trained to do”, “I don’t know what I am doing”, and “I need to stay out of the way”. This attitude served no one including the class teacher, students, my family and my self-esteem.

I often talk the talk of lifelong learning and it was time for me to walk the walk. I decided to start taking classes to refresh my knowledge in Higher Education and prove, mostly to myself, that I was still capable. I took a few online classes and restarted my job search with a focus on getting back into Higher Education, doing well in the courses and having some much needed encouragement from my instructors, I started to believe in myself again.

 A supervisor of mine from the past reached out when he heard that I was looking for a position, he let me know that there was a new program forming, working with first-generation, low-income students that could be a good fit for me. I was excited to be considered for a program that focuses on the population of students I am passionate to work with. I interviewed and received word that I landed the job! I was incredibly relieved and excited.

Fast forward to the end of the Monitoring Advising Analytics to Promote Success (MAAPS) grant funded program, I had been working for 3 incredible years doing exactly what I loved and even learned some valuable skills. Making connections to students, tracking their progress both through conversations and data gathering, was the best of both worlds. I was able to use my knowledge of higher education, past financial aid experience to assist students with the addition of my newly obtained knowledge of data analytics and beefed up Excel skills. 

Because of the work I had been doing with data analytics, target marketing, building strong connections on campus with students and administration, I was hopeful that a position would open itself to me. I had increased my marketable, desirable skills that I knew others wanted to incorporate in their offices. Once again, I was on the job search, but I felt more powerful going into it this time. I could see where I had come from, and what I could make possible. I took stock of what I had to offer and started the job search. I started searching early, about 8 months before my grant-funded position was to end. Luckily, a position serving first-generation, low-income and students of color, opened in the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP). I had been taken on as a Graduate Teaching Assistant in EOP while I was in graduate school in College Student Services Administration (CSSA), knowing the great work the program does and the top notch staff, I wanted to be a part of this team. About 2 months before the MAAPS program concluded, I made it through the interview process, got the initial verbal offer. My time, energy, newly solidified skill set and my own personal growth had paid off! 

We quickly moved to the salary negotiations. Unprepared, due to my own excitement and focusing only on landing the job, I hadn’t taken stock in what I was monetarily worth. It is also very hard to talk salary because I was raised not to talk about money and worth.  I knew that what I was bringing to the table was worth something, but I needed time to think about it. I asked if we could meet again in a day or two to talk about it. Thankfully, we agreed to come back again. 

In 2016 I had jumped at the offer to re-enter higher education in MAAPS, to be back in my desired field and I didn’t question the salary I was offered. I was just so happy that someone wanted me even though I had been out of higher education for a few years.

This time around, I wanted to take stock of where I was, what I was worth, what I needed and what skills I wanted to build in my next position. Before it was time to negotiate my salary, I had conversations with friends, mentors, women around me that had recently been through the negotiation process recently. I asked for them to give me their insight and advice. These conversations included consideration of not only what salary level I deserved, but possible release time, flex-time and work/life balance. I had a new understanding of my value and worth. I went into negotiations prepared with my walk away amount and what salary amount along with flex-time and release time, I could be happy with. Other considerations of balance, if not amount then release time. What would I be willing to negotiate with and for?

I  realize that this time I had the privilege of having a safety net, which meant that I could walk away if my needs weren’t met. The lesson I learned from the experience is that through preparation, I built confidence in my own personal value. Going into a negotiations, a new job with this sense of power, without the air of desperation, neediness or settling, allowed for others to also value my worth.

Going through the process again, I would like to have my worth, salary, values, and goals laid out before the negotiation happens. Maybe even reevaluating those four topics yearly, to both remind myself and my employer what I am worth and how to keep myself motivated to reach farther, and as a reminder for when negotiating for raises. 

Looking for jobs is challenging and difficult but it can also be the jump start we  need to value ourselves, solicit honest feedback from our mentors and professional friends, and hopefully, remind ourselves of our value, worth and areas that we need to grow and develop.

Raina Martinez (she, her, hers) is an Academic Counselor for Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) at OSU. You can connect with her through email at: raina.martinez@oregonstate.edu or on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rainamartinez/

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